Monday, July 11, 2011

Reflection on Technology Course

Assess your learning in this class.  In what areas did you see the greatest growth? 
This is the fourth class I have taken through Indiana Wesleyan, and I would like to say that it has been the most worthwhile and has given me a tremendous opportunity to grow as a teacher.  When I started this class I knew that I was “technologically deficient” in many areas of my teaching.  Two months ago, when the course started, I was overwhelmed at the amount of information I was going to learn.  I knew that I was ignorant to much of the information that was going to be covered in class, but I was also humble enough to admit that I had some growing to do.
I would say that I am most proud of learning how to use PowerPoint, Moodle, and webquests.  I think that these tools are going to make my instruction much more efficient and effective in the coming school year.  I am so grateful to be a part of the awesome instruction offered by Indiana Wesleyan.
I would also like to point out that our instructor, Tom Everett, was incredibly fast with responses to emails and feedback.  He was another important aspect of taking this class and offered my several ideas and resources that I had not considered.  Thanks Tom!

How will your teaching practice change as a result of what you have learned?
My classroom is going to be more technologically focused in the coming school year.  I am going to start small.  I don’t want to overwhelm my students with technology, or just complete a lesson for the sake of implementing technology.  I want my transition to the implementation of technology to seem organic and seemless. 
Reflecting on this course, I believe there are two things I have realized in regards to using technology in education.
1)       Technology should be used to engage students
2)      Technology should be used to make the teacher’ life easier
Overall, I think the webquests will help engage students, and moodle will make my life much easier.  And for those of you who have yet to hear me say it:  CHECK OUT MOODLE!  IT IS AWESOME! 

Monday, July 4, 2011

Being a Teacher Leader

How can you serve as a teacher leader for technology integration in your professional setting?
I think the most effective teachers are those that model skills/concepts to students.  By modeling what is expected of students, teachers allow students to feel safe because they know what is expected of them.  Moreover, the master teacher should not only model skills/concepts, but should also model behavior.
I think the same can be said about being a teacher leader in a professional setting.  For me to serve as a teacher leader, I need to model behavior that is reflective of a professional who wants to stay abreast to best practices in implementing technology into the classroom.  This means sharing information with my colleagues.  Whenever I come across a useful website, podcast, wiki, or blog, I will immediately email this information to my colleagues. 
One of the things we talked about in this class was the rapid rate that information can be disseminated.  Unfortunately, sharing information at Hammond High is something we need to grow in.  However, reflecting on what I have learned, I now realize that this is the perfect opportunity for me to become a teacher leader in my setting.  I can be the one to implement change when it comes to implementing technology into the classroom my showing others what I am currently doing. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Workshop 4 Post

What are your concerns about using various internet technologies in your teaching practice? 
My only concern when dealing with internet technologies is my students being off topic or trying to listen or download music.  I don’t have any of the traditional concerns (e.g. students looking at inappropriate/pornographic material or engaging in inappropriate conversations with strangers) when it comes to implementing internet technologies in the classroom because our school does a wonderful job at blocking out all of these things.  They do such a good job that some would say that it is overkill. 

The only issue I have ever had in my class was students being off topic, like when they would rather play solitaire or pinball rather than complete their work.  Listening to music while on the computers was another big issue, and I still don’t know how I feel about this.  Some students could handle it, but most could not.  On the one hand, I realize that the 21st century learner can multitask and is used to listening to music while engaged in other activities.  On the other hand, I just find it hard to believe that students can be authentically engaged with higher level, “deep” reading while they are listening to Gucci Mane or Lil’ Wayne.  I also find it disconcerting when I overhear some of the lyrics that are constantly being pumped into their brains.  Any thoughts or wisdom?
How can you alleviate these concerns?
The best way to alleviate these concerns is to have a well-prepared lesson that will authentically engage the student.  My job is to get students more interested Civil Rights or the Harlem Renaissance than solitaire or pinball.  I think will be another wonderful tool that I have learned about through my studies at Indiana Wesleyan.
In addition to the well-prepared lesson, I will commit to being vigilant when my students are working online.  My persistence for them to stay on topic will pay off.  I should be helping students while they are working, not grading papers or checking email. 
As far as the music issue goes, I am still not sure where I stand on this issue.  I know that when they are at home and on the internet that they are most likely jamming out to the latest and greatest hits.  As long as students are learning and engaged, I guess I don’t care what they listen to.   

Friday, June 17, 2011

Workshop three post

What software applications do you use regularly in your teaching practice?
 I currently use PowerPoint, excel, Microsoft word, and an electronic grade book (STI).  In addition to these applications, I have also implemented blogging as a part of my students’ journal writing when we are studying a novel.  I have also found that the 21st century student is visually oriented.  Therefore, has been a treasure trove for finding clips/songs/pictures that I can use to activate my students’ prior knowledge before exploring a new concept.

Students are also required to spend at least 20 minutes a day on the Read 180 software.  The software allows the students the opportunity to work on reading comprehension, vocabulary, spelling, and fluency.

What other software skills would you like to improve to increase your professional efficacy?
This week I attended a literacy conference and saw two speakers use  I thought the presentations were fresh and unique because they had a different look and feel compared to more traditional PowerPoint presentation.  This has sparked my interest, and I am going to spend the summer learning more about prezi.

In addition to prezi, I have also become interested in podcasts.  One of my colleague suggested that podcasts could be a great way to do book talks.  I think that is a great idea.  My job as a Read 180 teacher is to motivate the unmotivated reader.  Effective book talks can be a wonderful springboard to getting a student interested in a certain text.

Propose an action plan to improve these skills.
Part of the reason I feel that I am so behind in technology skills is that I took an eight year break from teaching.  I thought that teaching was not for me and tried to work in the business world.  After an eight year hiatus, the Lord called me back to the world of education.  Unfortunately the job I had did not use the technology required in teaching, so I have become a bit rusty.
 I am taking three workshops this summer that are being offered through our school district.   The first is on Microsoft Word.  The second is on PowerPoint.  The third is on moodle. 
In addition to these classes, I am also going to commit to learning more about podcasts and prezi.  I want to have several podcast book talks ready when August rolls around.  I am also going to create several prezi presentations that will focus on some of my reading strategy mini lessons.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Teacher Readiness for the 21st Century Learner

How well prepared do you feel for 21st century teaching and learning?       
I feel that I am somewhat prepared for 21st century teaching and learning.  There are a lot of skills that I possess, but I am also cognizant of the fact that technology changes at such a rapid pace that I must always be aware of what is happening in the realm of technology and the 21st century learner.

I believe my post important strength is that I possess a teachable spirit.  This may sound oxymoronic, but I am proud to admit that I am very humble.  I do not know everything.  There is always some way that I can improve myself, and this definitely includes the area of technology in education. 

I have been out of the classroom for seven years.  This first year back has taught me many things.  Reflecting on this year, I realize two important components to the 21st century learner:
1.       They are all visual learners.
2.      They more technology that can be infused into a lesson, the more engaged the students are.
I have to admit that I have struggled with this.  When I was a freshman in high school, my English class consisted of a textbook, and teacher, and a spiral notebook.  Our job was to listen to the teacher and regurgitate the answers on the test.  (I think I turned out fine, but I could be sorely mistaken).  The old methods and pedagogies are no longer best practices.  It almost seems like teachers need to be constantly coming up with new gimmicks to hook students into a lesson.  This can be tiring, but when I do successfully trick my kids into learner, I feel a great sense of pride.

Do your students leave your classroom equipped for success using 21st century skills? 

After researching the major skills that we as teachers need to be assisting our 21st century learners with, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I was actually covering many of the skills, even though I was not aware of it.  Some of these skills include helping students become critical thinkers, problem solvers, good communicators, technically literate, flexible and adaptable, innovative and creative, globally competent, and financially literate.

I teach struggling readers, and looking at these skills, I feel that the two skills I cover the most are critical thinking and effective communicating.  For example, I have a student who is obsessed with professional wrestling.  He is convinced that professional wrestling is real because he read it on the internet.  With the vast amount of information available to our students, it is of vital importance that we teach them how to analyze this information critically.

I am also really big on teaching social skills.  Many of my lessons revolve around cooperative learning.  I think that when we put students into cooperative learning groups that it reflects the real life, world experiences that will have in the workforce after high school. 

Admittedly, I have a long way to go.  Everything is changing all the time, and in order to be an effective teacher, I need to be aware of these changes and cognizant of my students’ needs.

What are your strengths and challenges in regards to 21st century teaching and learning?

I am fairly competent when it comes to finding materials on the internet.  I feel that with the advent of the internet I have been able to enhance many of my lessons by showing students pictures or videos in the goal of activating prior knowledge before reading.  Many of my students have lived in the same 10 block radius in the city for their entire lives.  Without sufficient background knowledge from life experiences, then reading comprehension is much more difficult.  Therefore it is my job to expose my students to this background knowledge with the goal of becoming better readers.
I also think I am competent in teaching critical thinking.  My students are aware of the metacognitive process.  One of the common complaints in my classroom is, “Mr. A, why do you always want to know why we think something?”  Although this may seem negative to my students, I realize I am doing my job when I am helping them to know why they are thinking about what they are thinking about.
One challenge I face is fear of using new technology.  It is much easier to fall back on old lesson plans that have always worked and not take a chance on a new idea or using a new technology.  In addition to EDU 545, I will also be taking several technology based courses offered through our district.
Overall, if we want to be effective teachers, we must also possess a teachable spirit and a “no fear” attitude when it comes to implementing new technologies in the classroom.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Following standards and having no fear

How are you doing at meeting the NETS standards?
After checking the ISTE website for current teaching standards, I was surprised to find out that I am acutally covering quite a few of them, desipte the fact that I was doing so unknowingly.  For example, the second standard states to "design and develop digital learning experiences and assessments."  I feel that this is something I cover almost everyday.  The class that I teach is called Read180.  It is a reading program designed to assist strugglinlg readers.  Students are required to spend at least 20 minutes a day on the R180 software.  I can then tailor my mini-lessons based on the feedback (assessement) provided by the software. 

In addition to the R180 software, I also incorporate online journals, magazines, and newspapers in attempt to engage my students.  Many of my students come from homes where reading is not valued.  In most cases school is the only place my students will have the opportunity to read, and for the 21st century learner, it seems like they will be more engaged if they are reading text off a screen rather than text in a book.

What are the barriers to technology use in your professional setting?
It seems that the common mantra in education is to do more with less.  In other words, we are always required to incorporate new technology...but with less money.  I know that our school is not unique in this problem and that many others can relate to this problem.

Despite budget crunches felt in the district, my classroom is pretty blessed.  My position is funded through title I, and all of the equimpment I have is also funded through Title I.  That said, I think the biggest barrier to technology use in my professional setting would be myself.  Although I consider myself a digital native, there are still a lot of things that I need to learn.

How does the Biblical command to "fear not" apply to your technology use?
I think fear is what would be holding me back from incorporating technology in my classroom.  The fear that I might ruin something is prevalent, and I have noticed that this fear is not a quality associated with today's 21st century learner.  Like anything else in life, fear is often associated to the unknown.  Once something is brought out of the darkness and into the light, then it becomes less scary.  So it goes with implementing technology into the classroom.

What are your personal goals as you begin this class on technology?
One of my main goals is to have practical, ready to use, standards based lesson plans that will be avialiable for immediate implementation.  To supplement my learning in this class I will also be taking several day long classes offered by our school district this summer.

Another goal is to get over some of my fears as far as using technology in the classroom.  The methods used to teach my generation aren't going to engage the 21st century learner. 

Finally, I need to learn more about troubleshooting if there is a technology problem in the classroom.  I have learned the hard way to make sure everything is in good working order before a lesson begins.  It is pretty frightening to have 30 students staring at you when the technology you need is not working. 

Matt A.